Hi everyone! Welcome to the third live chat of the FanGraphs Book Club! We’ll get started talking Russell Carleton’s book, The Shift, at 9 pm ET, and Russell will join us at 9:30. That’ll give us all 30 minutes to talk about the book amongst ourselves, and line up some really great questions for him. So, I would say, don’t put questions in for Russell now, let’s save those until he logs on to the chat.
I hope you all are as excited as I am to talk baseball books! As a reminder, if you want to join our Facebook Group you can do so here.
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Hi everyone! Welcome to the second live chat of the FanGraphs Book Club! We’ll get started at 9 pm ET, and Jonah will join us at 9:30. That’ll give us all 30 minutes to talk about the book amongst ourselves, and line up some really great questions for him. So, I would say, don’t put questions in for Jonah now, let’s save those until he logs on to the chat.
Hi everyone! Welcome to the inaugural live chat of the FanGraphs Book Club! We’ll get started at 9 pm, and Ben and Sam will join us at 9:30. That’ll give us all 30 minutes to talk about the book amongst ourselves, and line up some really great questions for them. So, I would say, don’t put questions in for them now, let’s save those until they log on to the chat.
Post chat addition:
I’ve already put a poll for next month. Find that poll here.
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It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you without a strong book to read to.
Hi, everybody. Opening up this tab really put a smile on my face today. To be honest, I was a bit surprised my login still worked. I would have figured Appelman would have quietly flixed that glitch. He didn’t though, so here I am!
Back in January, when I stepped away from the site, I expressed my desire to form the FanGraphs Book Club. Many of you seemed highly receptive to that idea. In the spirit of saving you a click, here’s what I said:
I should also note that I’m not leaving completely, hence the “For Now” in the title. I titled it as such because David Appelman has graciously agreed to let me start the FanGraphs Book Club. We won’t begin right away — I need to get the store open first — but hopefully around the start of the regular season, I will be back, with the goal of hosting a chat once every four-to-six weeks, on a particular baseball book that we’ll choose together. The idea is that we’ll pick a new baseball book ahead of time, and that book will be available for purchase through my store — in person and online — at a discounted rate. Hopefully, we can have a lot of fun with it, the same way we always have had in the FanGraphs After Dark chats.
OK, so the “around the start of the regular season” part didn’t quite work out. Turns out there’s a lot of work involved with running a bookstore — who knew!?!?! — but I’m ready now. I think. Let’s just pretend I am, OK? Deal? Deal.
For the past seven years, I’ve had the honor and privilege of writing for FanGraphs and its associated blogs, RotoGraphs, NotGraphs, and The Hardball Times. For the seven years prior to that, I had the honor and privilege of working for the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club. That’s a pretty neat coincidence. Looking back at the beginning of my adult life, I also spent seven years prior to joining the Rockies either in college or working a series of short-term jobs in order to build up a career. Triple sevens.
So, it seems like every seven years — or, as I’m approaching that seventh year — I look for a new challenge. This time around has been no different. Leaving the best job you’ve ever had is certainly not an easy thing to do, but for the second time, I’m about to do so. I am bidding FanGraphs and THT (mostly) farewell, as I take on what will most assuredly be my greatest challenge to date — opening up an independent bookstore.
Around this time last year, word began to spread that the bookstore in my town, Acton, Mass., was going to be closing. That was hard to fathom, since it had been in business for over 20 years. As I spoke with friends and neighbors around town, the feeling was the same: “Where do we buy books now?” And so my wheels started turning.
The result, barring last-minute hiccups, will be The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, which I hope to open at some point in March.
The store’s website is but a humble splash page at the moment. Once it’s set up, though, you will be able to purchase books from it online.
While I’m excited for my new (ad)venture, leaving FanGraphs and THT is going to be incredibly bittersweet. Looking at the Blog Roll recently, I realized I’ve worked with nearly every person on it. The relationships I’ve formed with my colleagues past and present, and with you, the readers, are something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
First and foremost, I have to thank David Appelman, not only for approving my initial hire as a writer, but then also agreeing to let me typeset The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2013 and, after that, agreeing to let me help lead THT’s transition to its current iteration and take over as managing editor. In between and after, he has trusted me with jobs like planning company trips, designing/ordering t-shirts, and managing interns. These were jobs that I was not always qualified to perform. I will miss working with him very, very much.
I’ll also desperately miss working with the editing team at THT — Joe Distelheim, Jason Linden, Dustin Nosler, and Greg Simons. Each one of them has stood by the site through thick and thin, and each one has bailed me out of plenty of jams.
Though I haven’t worked with her as long, Michelle Jay has become an invaluable person in my work life. Whatever the task at hand, I know that Michelle will get it done quickly, competently, and with a smile.
Of course, there’s all the people who I work with on the FanGraphs side: Carson Cistulli, Sean Dolinar, David Laurila, Eric Longenhagen, Chris Mitchell, Eno Sarris, Travis Sawchick, Jeff Sullivan, and Jeff Zimmerman chief among them. There’s also the people who I work with to produce stuff behind the scenes: Mary Craig, Mina Dunn, Jen Mac Ramos, Sarah Wexler, and intern Bailey Winston. There are countless others who I do and/or have worked with at FanGraphs and THT. I started building a list of a few particular people, but that list started to snowball, so I’ll simply thank Dave Studeman for trusting me to succeed him at THT. I’ve really had the pleasure and privilege of working with a tremendous amount of tremendously talented people.
Finally, there’s Dave Cameron. That Dave hired me in the first place is a bit breathtaking, knowing my credentials at the time and the credentials that would be subsequently required to write for the site. Objectively speaking, Dave never should have hired me. That he didn’t fire me once he did hire me is just as breathtaking. As he has reminded me, when he hired me, I claimed I would write for the site on a daily basis. I never did that. In fact, I think three original pieces per week (not counting chats) was probably my high-water mark, and for most of my tenure it was two or fewer. I owe Dave a great deal for not only hiring me, but for sticking with me as well.
Before this piece gets too sappy, I should note that my successor is a lot better at all this than me, so FanGraphs and THT are definitely not going to feel a pinch from my departure.
I could keep writing this post forever. FanGraphs will always feel like home to me. But in the interest of (relative) brevity, I’ll stop here. Thanks as always, for reading and interacting with my work — it means everything to me. See you in a few months.
Each week, we publish in the neighborhood of 75 articles across our various blogs. With this post, we hope to highlight 10 to 15 of them. You can read more on it here. The links below are color coded — green for FanGraphs, brown for RotoGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times and blue for Community Research.
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The Orioles have seemingly come to their senses about their place on the win curve and, as such, are open to trading Manny Machado. On the other hand, it’s been nearly a week since that news broke, and we haven’t heard many concrete trade offers out for Baltimore’s All-Star infielder. Perhaps the news was overblown. Perhaps not. One thing we can say with certainty is that, if Machado were traded, it would be fairly historic.
The St. Louis Cardinals have had a busy couple of days. One outfielder came in, another left. The latter move sent Stephen Piscotty to the Oakland A’s in exchange for two middle-infield prospects, Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock. The trade was made partly to accommodate Piscotty, whose mother has ALS, but the deal does help St. Louis. Likewise, it fills a need for Oakland.
Let’s start with Piscotty. Coming off a 2.8 WAR season in 2016, Piscotty looked to be building a solid profile in St. Louis. Clearly the Cardinals thought so, as they signed him to a six-year, $33.5 million contract that included a $2 million bonus. By the second week of the 2017 season, he was hitting cleanup.
Things didn’t go that smoothly all year though. Piscotty missed 15 days in May due to a strained hamstring. In mid-July, he landed back on the DL with a strained right groin. They recalled him on Aug. 1 from that injury but then optioned him to the minors on Aug. 7, only to reverse course and bring him back to the majors on Aug. 20. In his stint in the minors after he was demoted, he hit .313/.421/.781 in Triple-A, suggesting that he didn’t really need to be demoted in the first place. We’ll chalk that up to a bit of Mike Matheny Logic. Expecting a player fresh off the DL to hit like normal is shortsighted at best. Amusingly, in his last plate appearance before he was demoted, Piscotty hit a pinch-hit double.
Here’s his lines, split around his DL stints.
The biggest takeaway here is that he never really had a big sample to his season. The second takeaway, for me, is that he was doing just fine before he hurt his hamstring. It looks as though injuries more or less ruined his season, with a dash of Matheny Logic costing him two weeks in August.
One thing that we can say for sure is that he was pressing in the middle of his three big stints. Let’s take a look at another table:
As you can see in this table, Piscotty was swinging at a much higher rate when he came back from his hamstring injury, but he wasn’t making contact at a higher rate. When he finally got healthy toward the end of the season, though, he was able to go back to swinging less, and he made slightly more contact. He also swung at far fewer pitches out of the zone. That’s a promising development.
Whether he can repeat the swing improvements is a matter that will play out in Oakland. On the left coast, he’ll switch from right field to left field but become a valuable cog in their outfield no matter the corner in which he plays.
Of the four players we see getting significant time in an Oakland outfield corner, Piscotty projects to be the second-best hitter (by wOBA) and the best player overall. And this projection is probably a little conservative. If healthy, Piscotty could easily it. Given the way his 2017 season unfolded, I’m willing to throw out his replacement-level performance and be a little optimistic.
Over in St. Louis, Munoz and Schrock have their fans. Both were among Eric’s top 24 A’s prospects last spring. Munoz made Chris’s midseason KATOH top-100 list this past year. And Schrock was a fixture on Carson’s Fringe Five list last season. At the time of his last Fringe Five appearance in August, he was the yearly leader, and he would eventually finish the season third on the Fringe Five leaderboard.
All of this is to say that Munoz, a shortstop, and Schrock, a second baseman, weren’t throw-ins. They could potentially be valuable players. That is furthered by the dearth of middle-infield talent in the St. Louis farm system. Eric selected the Cardinals for one of his first top-prospects pieces this offseason. Here’s how the talent broke down:
There are two shortstops but no second basemen, and one of the shortstops is a 40 future value (FV) player who hasn’t yet reached A-ball. Munoz, meanwhile, ascended to Triple-A last season, and Schrock should be ready for Triple-A this season. Schrock actually projects to post a 87 wRC+ in the majors this year, which puts him in league with utility infielder Greg Garcia. Neither Munoz nor Schrock is likely to crack the Opening Day roster, but they should provide good depth for the Cardinals, who always seem to manage to turn average prospects into solid major leaguers. Oakland, meanwhile, still has plenty of middle infielders on the farm and in the Show. Top prospect Franklin Barreto is ready for major-league duty but may not actually get it to start the season, for instance.
This is a win-win deal. The Cardinals had too many good outfielders and too few good middle infielders. The A’s had too many good middle infielders and too few good outfielders. And as an added bonus, Stephen Piscotty — who will probably be fine if he can he avoid last season’s leg injuries — gets to be closer to his ailing mother. It’s hard not to like this trade from all angles.